It can be tough to figure out what the best Street Fighter game is, with the franchise having dozens of entries in its 35-year history. We break them all down, and rank our top 10.
Street Fighter wasn’t always a runaway success, the original game used a rather strange button layout, and was intentionally obtuse when it came to how you execute special moves. But, ever since Street Fighter II was released in arcades, the genre exploded in popularity, with the franchise splintering off in directions that no one could have really anticipated.
So, whether you’re an FGC-head looking to get the latest EVO results, or just eagerly awaiting the arrival of Street Fighter 6, we’ve got you covered with the best games in the franchise, just in time for its 35th anniversary.
On our list, as a rule, we’re only putting a single variant of a tentpole release in this list. So you will not see Street Fighter II: Super Turbo and Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers get two separate entries.
10. Street Fighter: The Movie (1995)
The 90s were a wild time. The Street Fighter Movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme might not have been a critical hit, but it was released at a time when the franchise was hitting a critical mass. Eager to not miss out on releasing a tie-in title, Capcom set Incredible Technologies, an American company to develop the game, since they had previous experience working on Time Killers, and with digitized graphics, which put the actors into the game.
Yes, the game features Jean-Claude Van Damme and Ming Na Wen, and the final product looks a lot like Mortal Kombat, too. But, the game encountered multiple issues with getting talent to show up for digitization, and the animations looked very rough. The resulting product was a critical and commercial failure. Though it does retain some charm due to the actors, and the novelty of the title as a whole.
9. Street Fighter EX (1996)
The 3D era in the late 90s and early 2000s saw many franchises moving forward with polygonal games, moving on from the tried and true sprite-based titles of the past. Not wanting to miss out, and seeing the meteoric rise in games like Virtua Fighter and Tekken, Capcom wanted a slice of the pie for its premiere Street Fighter franchise.
Arika was commissioned to create the game and brought with it a blocky, polygonal transition of the Street Fighter franchise in 3D in 1996. Street Fighter EX keeps the six-button layout of the Street Fighter franchise and featured classic characters including Ryu, Guile, and Ken. However, Arika also included original characters, such as the fan-favorite Skullomania.
With dynamic camera angles, and super combos a guard-break mechanic that differs from the Alpha series. Street Fighter EX was more like a redheaded stepchild of the franchise and doesn’t feel great to play compared to other Street Fighter games, or other polygonal fighters from the era. It’s not aged very well, meaning that Street Fighter EX has pretty much been forgotten in the franchise’s history.
8. Street Fighter (1987)
Street Fighter is the one that started it all. It focused on elaborate and tactical fights, with the player able to control Ryu, and a second player, who is able to control Ken. The game focused on a single eight-way joystick for movement, and two larger buttons for punches and kicks, whose moves differed on how hard you pressed them.
However, this version was very unpopular, and Capcom decided to release a six-button version instead, which birthed the modern Street Fighter control system. Special moves like the Hadoken, Shoryuken, and Tatsumaki Senpukyaku were also featured here as hidden moves. You fly out across the world, taking on various challenges along the way. But, the original game is still difficult to return to, and is more of an interesting curio than a title that fans should go back to.
7. Street Fighter Alpha (1995)
Street Fighter Alpha was the first-ever followup to the smash-hit Street Fighter II, and serves as a prequel to the original title, featuring a fast movement speed, air blocking, and something named Alpha Combos, where you can effectively cancel an attack into another.
Another mechanic, named Alpha Counters allowed you to predict and punish an opponent’s attack, sending them flying to the ground. Finally, Street Fighter Alpha also split the Super Combo gauge into three segments, introducing the concept of meter management, as Alpha Counters also required a segment of the Super gauge to perform.
This allowed for deeper strategies against opponents compared to previous titles. With an updated roster that features characters from Final Fight, like Guy, in addition to series stalwarts like Nash and Dan.
6. Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)
Much like its predecessor, Street Fighter Alpha 2 features a wealth of new mechanics for players to enjoy, all the while running on the fantastic-looking CPS-II system. Alpha 2 added an additional Alpha Counter for each character, in addition to adding in a ‘custom combo’ system.
This replaced chain combos in the original title and generally made for a much more balanced experience as a whole. Some have criticisms about the game, which was that the game has a number of attacks that are wholly unsafe to use, but this does not detract from Alpha 2 being an incredibly accomplished title, which managed to introduce series stalwart Sakura to the franchise.
5. Ultra Street Fighter 4 (2014)
Ultra Street Fighter 4 has it all. The game brought forth new mechanics like Ultra Combo double, which allowed you to select both Ultra Combos, at a price, in addition to Red Focus which absorbs multiple hits at once for greater tactical freedom.
The gameplay was still mainly focused on setting up highly-damaging Focus attack dash cancel combos, with the twitchy movement and single-frame links still in place from previous entries in Street Fighter IV, which encouraged high-level play. Some of the matches played on Ultra Street Fighter IV were incredible at events like EVO.
As well as being somewhat of a victory lap for Street Fighter 4 in general, Ultra introduced five characters, including Elena, who dominated many high-end sets with her healing abilities.
4. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)
Street Fighter Alpha 3 didn’t look too visually distinct from other Alpha titles, but it brought in a huge roster of characters, ahead of a home console release. Capcom ditched the ‘Auto’ or “Manual” control systems in previous Alpha titles. In Street Fighter Alpha 3, you can select three different fighting styles, named ‘ISMs’ which switch up the gameplay, dependent on what you pick.
Here, guard crushes were also introduced, where you are vulnerable to attack if you guard for too long. In addition to this, you also got the introduction of a ‘Just defense’ system, where you can time your block, which will reduce the reduction of the Guard Power gauge each time, much like lauded title Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
Each of the three styles, in addition to the massive cast, makes Street Fighter Alpha 3 one of the best Street Fighter games to come back to, and is still commonly played amongst fighting game enthusiasts today.
3. Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (1994)
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo kicked things up a notch for the highly-successful fighting game. With additional modes added which speed up the pace of gameplay, in what was a reaction to the popularity of various hacks like Street Fighter 2: Rainbow Edition.
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo also introduced Super combos, which is a powerful version of a special move for all of its characters, which remains to be a staple mechanic of the fighting game genre today. You also had the addition of air combos, and launchers for upward momentum, which expanded the heights of strategy and gameplay at the time.
Super Street Fighter 2 is a foundational game for the franchise, and feels fantastic to play, whether you’re on an original arcade board, or playing via one of the various rereleases or remakes over the years.
2. Street Fighter V: Champion Edition (2020)
Street Fighter 5 had a very rough launch. However, it grew into one of the franchise’s best entries yet. Focusing on a slightly slower pace and a shift to being a neutral-focussed game, you could argue that Street Fighter 5 is all about fundamentals. Champion Edition included another V-Trigger for all characters and continuing improvements to gameplay that continually shift the meta in new and interesting ways. Except for Luke. We don’t talk about Luke. If you play Luke, you’re not invited to our super cool barbeque.
With a cast of over 40 characters, Street Fighter 5: Champion edition has the largest roster in the Street Fighter franchise, exceeding even that of Ultra Street Fighter 4. While it’s a shame that the netcode could be slightly better. This game has been quietly improving for years, and showcases just how fantastic the Street Fighter franchise can be, through the sheer options and characters available to you.
1. Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike (1999)
Street Fighter 3 had a rough few versions, with many looking at the franchise as an older relic, in place of the more modern, fresh-looking 3D fighters. However, 3rd Strike turned all of that around with a total rebalancing, a fresh coat of paint, a handful of new characters, and an incredible soundtrack.
Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike is also adorned with incredible character animations and an iconic parry system which lead to one of the most iconic moments in esports history, the infamous Daigo parry from EVO 2004.
The best part? You can still pick up Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike and have an excellent time with it today, it remains in the halls of being one of the greatest fighting games ever made, and is the best Street Fighter game in its storied 35-year history.